Speakout is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. Speakout articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
Three China-related events caused the world's political and economic axis to shift in March and April. Taken separately, each event has its own importance, but taken together they add up to a sum greater than their parts.
The issuance of Chinese local government bonds, the evacuation of hundreds of foreigners by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) from Yemen and the confirmation of founding members for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank create a subtle but profound change in the way the world turns.
The little group, waiting for their appointment at the US Embassy in Berlin, were shocked when one member showed the latest photos of a haggard, incredibly aged Mumia Abu-Jamal, unable to stand without assistance.
For any who don't know, the African-American radio journalist with the dreadlocks and a wonderfully deep, warm voice has been in prison since 1981, convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman. More and more evidence piled up that, seriously wounded, he could not have been guilty. But even those with doubts know that his trial was totally unfair, with a racist prosecutor, a racist judge, an incompetent defense attorney, suppression of evidence and witness intimidation. But, hated for his views by the Fraternal Order of the Police, he was never granted a fair second trial. After long years in a tiny death cell, a world-wide movement saved him from the gas chamber but not from life in prison with no hope of parole. Yet his amazing commentaries on American and world events, telephoned from prison, enraged those who wanted his death. They have often tried to muzzle him, most recently with a law aimed almost directly against him.
Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as "policing for profit," allows law enforcement officers to seize personalproperty without ever charging—much less convicting—a person with a crime. Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department's own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime. The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.
"This is a good day for the Bill of Rights," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "For years police could seize people's cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in NewMexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional."
"California Puts Mandatory Curbs on Water Use" reports the April 2 New York Times long article at the top of the front-page. "Steps to Confront Record-Setting Drought," the sub-headline reads. The article describes Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order - California's first time restricting water use.
A 25 percent reduction of water use over the next year is required of residents, golf courses, cemeteries and many businesses. But wait. "Owners of large farms . . . will not fall under the 25 percent guideline."
To suggest that the United States policies in Yemen was a "failure" is an understatement. It implies that the US had at least attempted to succeed. But "succeed" at what? The US drone war had no other objective aside from celebrating the elimination of whomever the US hit list designates as terrorist.
But now that a civil and a regional wars have broken out, the degree of US influence in Yemen has been exposed as limited, their war on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in the larger context of political, tribal and regional rivalry, asinsignificant.
On Tuesday, April 7, 2015 Gerald Hankerson, the President of the Seattle/King CountyNAACP and Rita Green, the Education Chair of the Seattle/King County NAACP, began our press conference with a powerful idea and a call for action that holds the potential to help produce a tremendous social transformation. Together their opening remarks at the press conference—a gathering of parents, teachers, and community leaders that I helped to organize in opposition to the CommonCore "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium" (SBAC) tests—represent a clarion call to both education advocates and social justice activists across the country. Their simple, yet mighty, proposition is that the movement to oppose high-stakes standardized testing and the Black Lives Matter movement (and other struggles against oppression) should and can unite in a great uprising in service of transforming our schools into an environment designed to nurture our children, in body and intellect, rather than to rank, sort, and reproduce institutional racism.
Hankerson, kicking off the event, referenced the "long and ugly history" of using standardized tests in an effort to establish white supremacy. This is a history that the corporate "testocracy" is desperate to insure remains hidden from the public, as the uncovering of this history would bury their attempts to claim that standardizing testing is the key to closing the "achievement gap."
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (ALC) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter seeking government action to evacuate American citizens trapped in Yemen. [NOTE: The lawsuit was filed by ADC and CAIR attorneys.]
Plaintiffs in the case, all American citizens or permanent citizens trapped in Yemen, are challenging "the constitutionality of the United States government's action and/or failure to act to protect United States citizens in Yemen, whose lives are in danger from ongoing military action and violent attacks." [NOTE: The plaintiffs are all part of the more than 450 people who registered on the StuckInYemen.com website. See below.]
Progressive groups are mobilizing in opposition to a bill that would threaten the tenuous diplomatic process underway to limit Iran's nuclear program. The bill, S. 615 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, sponsored by Republican Senator Bob Corker, would give Congress review power over the any final agreement with Iran. As it currently stands, the bill would undermine the ongoing negotiations, and move the US closer towards the possibility of war with Iran. Jewish Voice for Peace joins the National Iranian American Council, Move On, Credo Action, Just Foreign Policy and many other progressive groups in calling for Senators to reject the bill.
Some Congressional Democrats are pushing back against specific provisions in order to weaken the bill's ability to stymie negotiations with Iran. But, with the support from Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the bill could gain a veto-proof majority. Jewish Voice for Peace supporters around the country are calling their Senators to encourage them to let diplomacy work.
Montevideo, UY and New York, US - Today the Brazilian Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) formally approved an industry request to release genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees. The application was made by FuturaGene, a company owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano. This is the first approval for commercial release of GE trees in Brazil or Latin America.
Organizations in Brazil are exploring legal avenues to stop the commercial release of GE eucalyptus trees, pointing out that this decision violates national law.
New York, NY - After Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State legislature failed to pass the most needed ethics and campaign finance reforms this spring, the Board of Elections must close a corporate loophole that allows wealthy donors to bypass campaign limits and donate millions of dollars in state elections, urged theBrennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP in a letter Thursday.
The New York Board of Elections currently classifies limited liability companies (LLCs) as individuals rather than "corporations" or "partnerships," as they are treated under federal law. This allows each LLC to give hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, many times the corporate limit.